Welcome NEA members and congratulations on your pending trip to Thailand.
Education International has a page dedicated to the Education World Congress with a welcome video and some basic information like how to get to the convention center.
I thought, perhaps, I could offer some more general information that might make your stay more pleasant.
If I can help with anything, please add your email address to the box below. You can also email me directly: [email protected] My team and I would be happy to hear from you.
Unless you plan on staying for more than two months I would not recommend getting a visa before you go. With an American passport you’ll get 30-day visa-free entry. If you plan to stay longer, you can take a trip to Penang, Malaysia (there’s no visa needed for Americans in Malaysia). This is a great side trip, it’ll allow you to see more of the region, and will provide you with an additional 30 days when you return to Thailand.
If you’d rather stay in Thailand the whole time, it is about $20 cheaper to get a 60-day visa before you go instead of doing a visa extension while you’re there. Check details for tourist visas on the Thai Embassy website.
No matter which option you choose, do not get in the “visa on arrival” line when you get to the Bangkok airport. I know it’s confusing, but what I’ve always called visa-on-arrival, they call an arrival stamp. Some countries don’t qualify for this and are required to fill out more information, but not you. You should go straight to the booths with immigration officers for your visa-free entry stamp.
Get the multi-trip “Rabbit Card” pass. Not so much because it’ll save you money, although it will, but because it’ll save you time. You’ll likely be taking the train to the convention center or elsewhere during rush-hour and the platform for getting tickets during that time is a madhouse. Go to the information booth at any station during an off hour to get a card.
Dress Code for Temples
A lot of what is written about how to dress at temples is subjective. Below are some general guidelines, but ultimately it’ll be up to the staff of the temple in question. Don’t dress like a college student on spring break and you should be fine.
The main thing to remember is nothing sleeveless, nothing excessively short or revealing, and nothing with holes in it. Rules are less strict for men and even less strict for children. As long as men and children aren’t completely ratty looking (sleeveless shirts and holes in their pants), they should be fine. For women, wear a tee-shirt and carry a sarong like below—one with a elastic waist band to slip over your shorts will work best. If you don’t have one and don’t want to buy one, most of the more touristy temples will have rentals.
Even if you are from Phoenix or New Orleans or Tampa, you will not be ready for the heat and humidity. My mother, who grew up in Florida and has lived her whole adult life in Alabama, said it was hotter than anything she’s experienced in the States.
Carry an umbrella. You’ll be coming at the beginning of the rainy season, but the umbrella is mostly for the sun. You don’t want to be in a tropical monsoon with an umbrella anyway. Umbrellas are better than hats because you can angle them and they don’t hold heat on your head the same as a hat.
Drink lots of water. You’ll never be far from a 7-11 or some kind of convenience store, but it’s best to keep a bottle with you. Drink more than you would at home, you’re going to sweat more than you would at home. If you start to feel too hot, duck into a mall or convenience store for a few minutes, they’ll have A/C.
Wear comfortable shoes. In addition to using the Skytrain, you will likely be walking around and exploring your surroundings, so comfortable shoes are a must. The locals love to wear sandals, and this is widely accepted here. Unless you are attending business meetings, sandals or slip-on shoes are both comfortable and convenient. Also, if you are visiting any palaces or temples during your trip, you will need to take your shoes off before entering, so consider packing something comfy and easy to take on and off.
WiFi is all over the place. Most hotels, cafes, and restaurants offer free WiFi to guests.
Your phone will work fine connecting to WiFi hotspots, but voice call are a bit trickier. Some American cell phone carriers have international roaming packages, and you may wish to look into that. Unfortunately, many American phones are locked and cannot accept local Thai SIM cards. If you don’t want to pay for an international roaming plan, this leaves you with two options: stick with WiFi or buy a cheap phone at a local shop a Thailand SIM card. You should be able to get a basic phone and SIM card for around 20-30 dollars. This is probably unnecessary. You can keep in touch with family using Skype on your hotel WiFi. If you plan on traveling around Thailand after the conference, the staff at your hotel should have no problem making calls for you to your next destination.
I hope this brief guide will prove useful. You may still have some questions about hotels, day trips around Bangkok, or trips to other parts of Thailand. If you have such questions, want to plan something before or after the conference, or just want to say hello, please don’t hesitate to write me: [email protected] I’m always happy to connect with visitors to Thailand.